Remind Me Again, How Did Rome Fall?

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Latin was taught in high school not so many years ago. In fact two years of such study was standard. What did we learn and who cares?

 

The study of Latin was in fact helpful throughout my life from language studies to the history of World War II and how the Roman legions provided a military history of war in Europe. Somewhere along the way it provided that the rationale for the fall of the Roman Empire was economic, social, political and moral decay. An in-depth study might provide an understanding how each of these led to the demise of Rome. My question is how are these four factors interacting today and in what direction are we heading in the good “ole” USA?

 

The recession of 2008, the ongoing problem with job loss and wage stagnation may be an indication of economic decline. Social concerns regarding treatment of LBGT people, how immigrants are viewed, the massive incarceration of people in our prisons each should make us question our values. Political decay may be the first to come to mind for many people. Our legislators won’t talk because their beliefs are so different. Some focus on helping the rich with a claim to be creating a better life for the workers and the electorate. Rolling back regulations without regard for their benefits for the present or future generations appears to indicate our continuing decline. Some would say we are heading toward the demise of the “American Empire.” This however is not a one-way street and not the only road to travel.

 

Some controls have been placed on the financial world and money markets to limit the greed and seek fairness and decency. The job market is improving and calls for better wages for workers are getting louder and with some positive effects. Exposing the wealth separation and creating an awareness of how the road to middle class has been narrowed may be a first step. The African-American, LBGT communities have made some gains. Perhaps the recent health care debacle has shown that people are more concerned about each other and the ability to obtain medical treatment than many thought. The political arena is a weaker link in this process. Massive amounts of money by the ultra rich few seem to keep the least caring or knowledgeable people in office. Those elected deny the opinions of knowledgeable people on issues from education to science but resistance is growing. More local action at both the state and local levels has resulted in fighting back to some degree. Electing good honest and caring people is essential to reverse this on the national level.

 

Now for our weakest link which is moral decay. This isn’t our sexual behavior but more what we accept as moral. The fact that billionaires accumulate great wealth essentially taken from the middle class is unconscionable. The fact that others of us support tax cuts for the billionaire class is immoral. These tax cuts take money from education, healthcare, poor people, elderly people and we accept that behavior. Unions which provided a middle class lifestyle are eliminated and we acquiescence to it. This is moral decay and it is wrong. If we fall this is where it happens on moral grounds or the lack of. Our choice is continued decay or we fight.

 

Simultaneously we experience decline and improvement. Different people view the same actions differently. The problem is only one seeks the moral high ground. Choosing the right road or reversing the one we are on is doable. We need the knowledge, understanding and the will to do it. We need people to care about each other and who are willing to stand up, speak up, join up and act up. Money can buy some of us but not most of us. People are not stupid but do need a kick in the behind periodically. The road chosen will determine if we follow in the path which Rome pursued. Remind me again what happened there. Was anyone capable of fighting or did no one care?

Comments

Steve Bergeron Added Apr 11, 2017 - 8:20am
It's not that complicated.  Rome fell because it became immoral.  Immorality is the root cause of the other problems you mentioned.  For example, the economy fell because of greed and laziness, both moral issues.  The root of the political problems were moral, also.  People in government were willing to do do what was not moral in order to increase personal power.
 
But, you are right.  There is a very strong parallel happening here in the United States.  Immorality is undermining our country and is, hands down, the biggest threat to our country.
Patrick Writes Added Apr 11, 2017 - 9:35am
Didn't Rome's Caesars start murdering it's best generals? Stilicho and Aetius come to mind. That to doesn't motivate the army fight very hard. 
 
Also making working class professions hereditary, locking out most social mobility. That didn't help the cause (Diocletian). 
 
Regarding LGBTQ folks today, I think people need ask themselves if these preferences are truly genetic and if they are truly 'born that way'. There is a quite a bit of evidence, they aren't. 
 
"[Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto] clinicians, who saw clients between ages 3 and 18, had a much more cautious stance on social transitioning for their younger clients — they believed that in many cases, it was preferable to first “help children feel comfortable in their own bodies,” as they often put it, since in the GIC’s view gender is quite malleable at a young age and gender dysphoria will likely resolve itself with time."
 
http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/02/fight-over-trans-kids-got-a-researcher-fired.html
Mike Haluska Added Apr 11, 2017 - 12:13pm
Rome fell (economically) because their economy was totally based on conquest.  They failed to realize until it was too late that conquering a nation is one thing, keeping it under your thumb is entirely another.  The cost to keep armed forces and governing bureaucrats in every corner of Europe grew too costly and they collapsed.
 
America's economy is based on wealth CREATION (not Conquest) from free market capitalism.  As long as the "progressives" are held at bay, the US will end the Welfare State and send it to the "Trash Heap of History" where it truly belongs!
George N Romey Added Apr 11, 2017 - 3:54pm
Rome fell for pretty much the same reasons the US will fall.
John Minehan Added Apr 11, 2017 - 4:58pm
Which time might be the proper answer.
 
The Western Empire fell in 476 CE.  The Eastern Empire in 1453 CE. The Holy Roman Empire ended in 1806 under that name and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (run by the same dynasty) ended in 1918. 
 
Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire dealt with all of them.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 11, 2017 - 5:15pm
George - read "The Fall of the Roman Empire" and you'll find many parallels between their fate and the direction our country has been heading since FDR and more recently Barack Obama.
Patrick Writes Added Apr 11, 2017 - 8:20pm
Mike Haluska's comment is bang on. 
 
The Rome empire was based on conquest and looting of new lands. So long as they kept doing that, everything functioned well. When that stopped, there wasn't enough money to pay the troops, for bread and circuses, to administer the empire, etc... And things started to crumble. Bizarrely pretty much all of the problems we associate with the fall of the empire bored their head in the first century.
 
(Nero began debasing the currency for lack of funds. Augustus stressed about having enough legions. Augustus put in serious penalties for declining morals of the aristocracy--death penalty for having an affair I believe. Augustus exiled his daughter for getting around too much, and Ovid for writing smutty literature--how to seduce women.)
 
The Romans were apparently so good at administration, with relatively fair laws, that they were able to hold together a dying corpse for hundreds more years. 
 
(Even Napoleon was apparently loved by the common people in France in the 19th century for dumping the corrupt and confusing legal structure of France and going back to the more fair Roman laws in France from over a thousand years earlier.)
John G Added Apr 12, 2017 - 4:20am
As if a currency issuer can run out of money. You really are not very bright Paddy.
 
Haluska, 'free market capitalism' is a fallacy. Capitalism is all about monopolies, cartels and the elimination of competition.
 
The USA is a predatory empire. It's corporate elite feed off militarily acquired resources, markets and labour.
 
Mike Haluska Added Apr 12, 2017 - 11:38am
John G - your comment:
 
"As if a currency issuer can run out of money. You really are not very bright Paddy."
 
does make a semi-valid point.  A "currency issuer" can continuously print money until he runs out of paper & ink.  The teeny little problem is that the more money printed, the less it is actually worth.  If you disagree, I have lots of Weimar Republic Deutschmarks and Confederacy Dollars I would gladly trade one to one for any US cash that you have on hand.
 
Why you fail to understand this simple and always true fact is beyond me and anyone with a smidgen of common sense - much less knowledge of economic theory!!!
 
By the way, you wouldn't recognize Free Market Capitalism if it bit you on the ass.
Phil's Personal Perspectives Added Apr 12, 2017 - 12:51pm
I truly appreciate any and all discussion from those who disagree with me as well as agreeing.  My purpose in writing this was to focus on what I see as a moral crisis without viewing other concerns as less.  As a nation we have seen ourselves as willing to help each other and fight for the underdog.  The moral dilemma is the lack of concern for others generally which has not been prevalent throughout our history.   A singular focus in our voting pattern and disregard for actions effecting others has emerged.  
 
Thanks again for taking your time to read and comment.
John Minehan Added Apr 12, 2017 - 1:08pm
This may be of interest.
Autumn Cote Added Apr 12, 2017 - 1:33pm
Please note, the second best way to keep your comment thread active is to offer as many personal responses as possible.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat!
John G Added Apr 12, 2017 - 2:39pm
Haluska, your quantity theory of money view of inflation was debunked in the 1930s.
 
Weimar Germany ran into a supply side crisis.
 
Any fool would know that.
 
you wouldn't recognize Free Market Capitalism
 
That because it's an oxymoron. It doesn't exist.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 13, 2017 - 11:48am
Weimar Germany ran into a "Supply Side Crisis"???
Tell that to the millions of Germans that starved to death because they couldn't make up their minds what to eat with all of the quantity and variety of food readily available!!!  There was plenty of printed money available as well!  With a single potato going for 20,000,000 Deutchmarks you needed a wheelbarrow - not a wallet or purse!
 
And Free Market Capitalism isn't an oxymoron - you are!!!
 
George N Romey Added Apr 13, 2017 - 2:50pm
Nations fall because:
 
Over involvement with foreign nations.
Obsession of military and political hegemony.
Crumbling domestic economy.
A self absorbed and out of touch ruling elite.
The infighting of the masses.
Lack of opportunity and expansion of generational poverty.
 
I'd say the US meets all those criteria.  Its not a matter of if, but when, the US will face a collapse.  The truth is that no one knows how, when and why it will happen. The demise of the US may be very different from what happened to the British, Roman or Ottoman empires.  However, the current system will are living under is not sustainable.
Phil's Personal Perspectives Added Apr 13, 2017 - 2:59pm
John M.,  thanks for the reference.  I do watch numerous TED presentations,  always informative.  Thanks again.
Phil
George N Romey Added Apr 13, 2017 - 3:10pm
I watched the video and very informative as many TED presentations are.  Human history has shown that the human race tends to make the same mistakes over again. I guess this time is no different.
George N Romey Added Apr 13, 2017 - 3:29pm
The big difference is that now information is easily and readily available.  The elites no longer hold the advantage of sole knowledge. If you suffered during the Depression you only knew what the papers would write and what FDR would say on the radio.  Information was often distorted to mirror an authoritative narrative. Today information ubiquitous.  Only the fools listen to the talking political, media, social and business heads on MSM and take it verbatim.  More and more dissatisfied and disillusioned Americans are skipping the official word realizing its a way to keep dissent out of the ranks and pave the way for elite hegemony. 
John G Added Apr 13, 2017 - 7:42pm
Mike Haluska Added Apr 13, 2017 - 11:48am
 
As usual, your comment makes little sense and evades the point.
Every single instance of hyperinflation in history starts with supply side shocks.
Logic dictates that for there to be competition to bid up prices on goods there must be a limit to the supply.
You may wish to study the conditions in Weimar at the time. 
I doubt you will though as you appear to prefer ignorance.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 14, 2017 - 11:02am
John G - if there is one thing I can say conclusively about your writing, it is that "Logic Dictates NOTHING to you"!  You don't understand the distinction between the cost of goods going up because they became scarce (e.g. crop failure) and the government making the cost of EVERYTHING go up by printing money without economic growth to back it up. 
 
Whether it's post WWI Germany or any of today's South American "socialist paradises", the currency is being devalued due to the government trying to "print its way out of debt".
Phil's Personal Perspectives Added Apr 14, 2017 - 11:57am
Gentlemen,  the article which I wrote focused on the "moral" decline in this country as I see it.  This decline to me is in us accepting attitudes or conditions we previously considered unacceptable.  The current wealth distribution being so heavily weighted toward the wealthiest people.  Public policies that in effect harm the poor, elderly and those of a different lifestyle.  Before the labeling of this as liberal nonsense, I ask people to consider the issues and remove your political mindset if possible.  One person was elected who claimed he would change some of this but 538 others were re-elected basically unscathed.  The condition I see continues so what do we do?  Maybe do nothing because we don't see a problem.
George N Romey Added Apr 14, 2017 - 12:04pm
Phil my belief is that the two party system is incapable of fixing problems because their big money supporters do not believe there are any problems.  And why should they?  All of their economic gains have been going into their pocket over the past 10 years.  There stock portfolios have soared as well as the value of their pricey real estate. Not to mention their bonuses have gotten bigger and bigger.  
 
Until Americans can wrap their heads around the fact that an "R" or a "D" will never solve issues we will get the same results.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 14, 2017 - 2:02pm
George:
There is only ONE reason that someone donates big $$ to politicians - he wants to control someone in a position of power to grant him favors.  Rules on campaign contribution limits, campaign finance reform, etc. are made to keep incumbents in power - not to "reform" anything!  Here's what has to happen to get rid of the problem:
 
Pass an amendment that essentially reads:
"No law, executive order, tax, fee, tariff, treaty, grant, subsidy, etc. shall be passed unless it applies equally to everyone - including private citizens, politicians, government employees, corporations, businesses, unions, etc."
 
What this legislation would do is strip the power of granting special favors from politicians and bureaucrats.  Suppose a businessman wants a tariff on foreign steel.  With the law above in place, the only way the businessman gets his way is if ALL GOODS (not just steel) had the same tariff.  Since any business that imports goods would object, the "favor" won't be granted.
John G Added Apr 14, 2017 - 4:07pm
Haluska Added Apr 14, 2017 - 11:02am
 
Clearly I do understand the difference between cost push inflation and price pull inflation. That was the point in fact.
Weimar Germany had catastrophic supply side shortages and debts in foreign currencies.
John G Added Apr 14, 2017 - 4:09pm
And there is no such thing as 'printing your way out of debt'. This is a neoclassical/Austrian school myth.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 15, 2017 - 3:29pm
John G - you obviously invert "cause and effect" to "effect and cause"! Weimar Republic was broke and handcuffed by the Treaty of Versailles.  The Allies were taking almost all of Germany's industrial and agricultural output, resulting in the scarcity of goods for the German people.  The German government tried to rid themselves of the debt by printing currency - thus causing hyper-inflation. 
John G Added Apr 15, 2017 - 7:36pm
Weimar Republic was broke and handcuffed by the Treaty of Versailles.  The Allies were taking almost all of Germany's industrial and agricultural output, resulting in the scarcity of goods for the German people.
Sigh. You've just described the very supply side shock that I alluded to.
Christ on a bike. I've argued with 12 year olds who can reason better than you.
 
Autumn Cote Added Apr 15, 2017 - 7:57pm
Please note, the best way to draw more attention to your work is to comment on the work of others.  I know this to be true because of you do I'll do everything in my power to draw more attention to your work. 
 
PS - There is a lot I can do and would like to do.  
Phil's Personal Perspectives Added Apr 15, 2017 - 8:26pm
Thanks I will.  Just needed a little time to understand the process.
 
thanks again,  phl ward

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